Mackenzie is never far from the thick of things—even when doing her school work in a custom-built (by dad) classroom above the store.

In the midst of the hectic world around them, the Platt family starts each day by sitting down to a hot breakfast and the newspaper, and the kids are no exception.

That’s how Mackenzie Platt first heard about online public school.

A fourth-grader brimming with potential, Mackenzie was bored in school. She was tired of having to work on the same content over and over—even if she understood it. She also didn’t enjoy the many distractions that come with a traditional classroom.

“Her teacher tried,” said Mackenzie’s mom Kimberly. But the fact was, the traditional school wasn’t meeting Mackenzie’s needs.

The Platt’s wanted to enroll Mackenzie in the district’s gifted program, but with limited space her fate was left up to a lottery. And she didn’t win.

That brings us to the newspaper. After reading an article about two online students in Tumwater, Wash., nine-year-old Mackenzie made up her mind that she wanted to do school online. After consideration, her parents agreed, provided she would stick with it for a full year then evaluate.

It was no wonder Mackenzie had been bored in school. Her initial English placement test put her two grades ahead of her age cohort. Now a freshman in high school—taking all sophomore and junior level classes—she can’t imagine going back to traditional school.

Online learning has allowed Mackenzie to excel in subjects she enjoys and to take more time in more difficult subjects, all under the supervision of an online teacher. “The teachers are super encouraging. It’s great to know you have that support.”

Online learning has also given her the opportunity to pursue interests piqued during her studies such as literature, and in particular, Emerson.

“What a wonderful adventure to see her sponging up everything,” said Kimberly, “I’d have to flip ahead to keep up with her.”

As a parent, Kimberly also appreciates how Mackenzie is gaining skills that will prepare her for the 21st century. This includes learning to use the internet with integrity. Mackenzie’s online school uses a program called “Turnitin” that automatically checks assignments for plagiarism.

By focusing on her studies and not being distracted by the drama of the traditional school setting, Mackenzie is able to excel while saving a lot of time. She spends that time on a number of activities including working for the family business, Mailbox of Olympia. Located in the heart of downtown Olympia, Mackenzie is never far from the thick of things—even when doing her school work in a custom-built (by dad) classroom above the store.

But the business isn’t Mackenzie’s only contribution to the community. She also volunteers extensively, is a teacher’s assistant at a local dance studio, and participates in theater at the Capitol Playhouse.

When asked what would be different if she had stayed in traditional public school, Mackenzie quickly replied, “I wouldn’t be as involved as I am, and I would be less social. I don’t miss out on anything with online school.”

Her mom agrees. “Online school has helped her become a more well-rounded young lady. The community respects her and always asks about her schooling.”

The reports these days are encouraging. Having earned 10 college credits through Everett Community College—in partnership with her online school—Mackenzie plans to graduate a year early and apply to NYU where she will either study dramatics or editing. Someday soon, her family and friends might be reading about her in the morning paper.


[Reprinted from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project blog]